Fishermen and others who want to know in advance whether conditions at sea will be amenable to their efforts have many ways to access information from a variety of sources.

On March 2, the 2012 Maine Fishermen’s Forum held a session on forecasting and predicting marine weather and ocean conditions, to offer insights into the tools that are available. Hosted by fisherman Steve Train, presenters included Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems Outreach and Communications Specialist Tom Shyka, National Weather Service Senior Meteorologist John Cannon, Robert Beardsley of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Kate Burns of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and oceanographer James Manning of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

Shyka said NERACOOS is “an end-to-end ocean observing system” that provides data to fishermen, commercial shippers, the Coast Guard and researchers. Part of an integrated system, NERACOOS gathers information from buoys, satellites, ships, autonomous underwater vehicles and land-based collectors.

Real-time data are mapped online and renewed every hour. Forecasts and 12-hour reports are also available.

Shyka said NERACOOS needs input from users on the best ways to deliver the information. The NERACOOS website offers a variety of products at neracoos.org.

Cannon has been a meteorologist for more than 25 years and works at the NWS Gray office. He said visibility sensors that are part of the NERACOOS system have provided data that show a correlation between sudden drops in visibility at sea and ocean collisions. He called these sudden events “puffs of lower visibility.”

“We’re trying to measure waves and forecast how different steepness has different impacts on different vessels,” he said.

Cannon described hybrid storms, in which tropical storms transform into cyclones. He said the so-called Perfect Storm, in October 1991, was such an event. Showing satellite images of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, he said, “You can see the inner guts of the system change.”

He said the information NWS uses and the forecasts it offers can help recreational boaters and fishermen avoid situations in which conditions may suddenly change. Those forecasts are available online at nws.noaa.gov/marine.

Beardsley described work being done in Scituate Harbor, Mass., that is allowing scientists to model the way in which storms track close to land.

He said changes in conditions that lead to icing can be studied in hindcast and help forecasters understand what may happen in the future. By correlating wind and temperature data with information about the speed at which a vessel is traveling, those on board a vessel may be able to prevent icing, said Beardsley. He described the effect of coastal terrain on wind currents as part of the mix that can create such hazards.

He told participants that a coastal ocean circulation model — developed by WHOI and the University of Massachusetts — creates a three-dimensional model of the ocean surface. That and other tools are available at the website at fvcom.smast.umassd.edu.

Burns said these tools enable fishermen to be “more efficient at maximizing catch of their allocation.” She said forecasting tools can enable sectors management groups to choose the weather or the waters they want to be out in and better decide how to share the sea with other industries.

She asked fishermen to help by contributing information beyond the required landings data.

“I know fishermen have a lot on their plate,” she said. Burns said it was important to embrace new technologies in order to create data that can be used by multiple programs to provide varied information to many users.

“Industry has to work together to share data,” said Burns. Her website is at gmri.org.

Manning showed charts that tracked temperatures, including a rise of 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit in one period, along with some spikes and troughs in measurement.

He thanked lobstermen who have been collecting and sharing such information for more than 10 years.

VillageSoup Gazette reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by email at sauciello@villagesoup.com.

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